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Don’t bring Wigan with you! – Part One

– Advice for those thinking of relocating to the Dominican Republic

The heading could just as well have read Eastbourne or Swansea, or anywhere else in the UK. The first piece of advice is: do not base a decision to relocate to the Dominican Republic on a two-week holiday at an all-inclusive resort here. Real life is very different. Well, of course, it must be, silly woman, what sort of advice is this? I can hear the seeds of scepticism slowly bursting into bud in your cerebral cortex. But… it happens!

We know of at least one British couple who did just this, about a week into their two-week holiday. They even bought a property and thus committed serious money… and they are currently having a difficult time adjusting. They will have an even harder time selling their property – it is in an area notorious for robberies.

The sellers of the property are also British; they built the house, against all advice not to choose that area, and learned the hard way, eight robberies in 18 months. They were very lucky to sell and delighted they did so; no one already living here would have chosen to live in that area, let alone pay money to do so. They sold to a family who made the decision after 20 minutes of drinks and chat (the rum is strong here in the Dominican Republic and should come with a manufacturer’s warning, particularly if imbibed when life-changing decisions are being made).

You do not, thus, need a crystal ball to predict that this self same property will be up for sale again very soon… and who will buy? Another new British or American family who have not done their homework – and so the cycle continues.

What were they thinking? you ask yourselves. I have given up asking those sorts of questions, having lived on the north coast of the Dominican Republic for the past 13 years. I have, in the past three or four years particularly, seen all manner of idiotic (and costly) decisions made. Thus my motivation for writing here, to try to warn some potential residents before they shell out a lot of cash. There is also some self-interest, I must admit – the Dominicans, particularly the poor ones (and there are many) observe these foreigner antics involving sums of money which they will never see in a lifetime, and can be forgiven for thinking that all gringos are equally stupid. And as it matters to me what these delightful inhabitants of my adopted homeland think, I would prefer to see less estupido gringo activity.

So the second piece of advice is: do your homework, on the Internet [see our article about Finding Property on the Internet], in libraries and in personal visits – several personal visits – before you make the decision. Make sure you chat to a range of different expats of different nationalities who have been living here at least seven or eight years; in other words those who are here to stay, through choice. They will have had their “difficult times” but they will have learned from these, and that wisdom can be passed on. Just make sure that the expats you talk to are not itching to leave and “just” need to sell their house… And if you do, stay off the rum!

Thirdly, please get some Spanish before you move here. It does not have to be fluent, enough to get by is good enough. But, unlike the experience of the two-week tourist closeted in the all-inclusive resort, not everyone here speaks English. If you arrive with no Spanish, you will gravitate to live in areas where virtually everyone speaks English, otherwise known as “gringo enclaves”. These tend to be located where properties are both overpriced and more subject to robbery. A whole lot of gringo homes in one place represents good pickings for anyone so tempted. So might the homes of rich Dominicans but the ladrones (burglars) know that rich Dominicans will shoot them, whereas gringos will not, so they gravitate to where the pickings are good and they can leave alive.

Please do not get the wrong idea about crime here in the Dominican Republic. I firmly believe there is far less than in the UK – a 2002 visit to the UK resulted in my handbag being lifted in Tesco’s of High Wycombe. That has never happened to me in 13 years of living in the DR. Of course, there is crime here, as there is everywhere, but you can reduce your chances of being a victim by not living in certain places. As in all “developing” countries but fairly new to the Dominican Republic, there is also crime associated with the “development” itself. Here I do not so much mean petty scams, as the “nothing gets in my way” maxim adopted by some developers.

We have a beautiful peninsula in the north-east of the Dominican Republic which up until recently remained in its “natural” state. However, the opening later this year of a new airport and the construction of a new highway to link to the capital on the south coast, means that developers have moved in and are buying up and they do not take kindly to opposition from enlightened foreigners who seek to protect the rights of the local underprivileged Dominican population from exploitation. They even threaten those who try. And sadly, most of these developers are not Dominican but European and, even sadder, include some British ones who adopt heavy handed tactics. Readers who are more mature in years may recall what happened in the early days of the Costa Brava development in Spain.

Ginnie can be contacted with any queries readers might have, but only after they have checked out the content of this article…!

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